When the Tennessee Vols hired Josh Heupel to replace Jeremy Pruitt as the program’s new head coach, there were some folks who thought this would mean UT would be going back to recruiting smaller players along the offensive line and at running back.
Heupel’s offense is an up-tempo spread attack that requires athletic players who can play at a fast pace.
But that doesn’t mean that size will be sacrificed.
Tennessee’s new coaching staff has already been handing out scholarship offers to recruits. And we can learn a lot from those offers.
The Vols have offered several 2022 offensive linemen since arriving in Knoxville late last month.
— Leyton Nelson (@LeytonNelson4) February 5, 2021
Ryan Brubaker (6-foot-6/280 lbs), Leyton Nelson (6-foot-6/275 lbs), and Maurice Clipper (6-foot-6/275 lbs) are a few of the offensive linemen that Tennessee has offered in recent weeks.
You can obviously see a theme with their size.
Those guys would certainly need to add a bit of weight to play offensive tackle in the SEC, but this is on par with what most SEC programs do.
For example, one of the top signees in Alabama’s 2021 recruiting class was five-star offensive tackle Tommy Brockermeyer, who is 6-foot-6/283 lbs.
Tennessee’s new staff signed offensive tackle Jeremiah Crawford earlier this month. Crawford is a junior college transfer, which means he’s a guy that will be expected to play immediately for the Vols. Crawford is 6-foot-6/315 lbs, which indicates that’s the size UT would prefer their tackles to play at.
There’s no doubt that Heupel and offensive line coach Glen Elarbee want athletic offensive linemen who can play in an up-tempo offense, but they also recognize they need size, too.
“What you have to do is see what you have up front and mold your offense to what fits them the best,” explained Elarbee during a media session this week. “Shoot, if a guy can’t pull, it doesn’t make sense to ask him to pull. If he’s big and burly and strong, then let’s go let him knock somebody off the ball and try to make our scheme fit those guys.”
When it comes to running backs, we’ll see a similar philosophy for the Vols.
Tennessee’s new staff obviously want speed. But they’re going after bigger running backs, too.
Three-star running back Jordan McDonald received an offer from the Vols this week. And he already possesses prototypical SEC size at 6-foot/215 lbs.
The Vols are clearly going to still be recruiting size under Heupel. However, we’ll definitely see the new staff recruiting some different players than previous head coach Jeremy Pruitt recruited (Pruitt focused on size and not athleticism with linemen, plus he focused on recruits in Alabama).
Essentially, though, this staff will be recruiting most of the same players the rest of the SEC is targeting.
Heupel has a plan. And his plan has worked before. There’s plenty of reason for optimism on Rocky Top in the coming years.
Featured image via USA TODAY